I was struggling with constructing this week’s blog and it took me so long.
Though I have claimed that my research interest is teacher identity, recently I think I haven’t really thought about identity issue. I am saying this because I don’t take my name seriously, which is one of the important representations of identity.
Last week, when I checked out my reserved book from the library, the student worker asked my name. For the sake of convenience, I gave him my ID card because I thought if I said my name, he didn’t know how to spell it and I had to spell it for him anyway. When he came back, he asked my name again and I gave him my ID card again. He joked that I just thought he wouldn’t pronounce my name correctly, so I didn’t even bother to say it. I shared this story with my friends, and they said that people should know how to say my name correctly even though I understood it was difficult for them to pronounce it in Chinese. However, my name is my identity.
This was the moment when something hit me. I was so used to people getting my name wrong. My name is confusing in Chinese. First of all, it sounds like a boy’s name and 90% of the time when people heard my name, they thought I was a boy. Then my name sounds like another word in Chinese but in a different written format, so people usually write my name in a wrong way. When I came to the United States, I knew how difficult it was for people from other countries to speak Chinese, so I was okay with people saying my name according to English alphabet though it pronounces differently in Chinese. I remembered the first time when April asked me how to say my name correctly, I said I was fine with her saying my name in an English way but she kept saying my name in the right way. The second time when I told others they could call me/jæŋ/, April said, “She preferred Yang”, which I appreciate so much.
So after my conversation with my friends, I realized that for a long time, though I considered myself as a female, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Chinese, a student, a teacher, and an in-training researcher, I forgot myself as Yang Zhang. This name represents everything of mine and it is who I am. It is my past, my presence and my future.
(This is a cool project called My name, My identity.)
I think I was attracted to identity issue in the first place because I was teaching in a school where all of the students were ethnic minorities, but teachers were the ethnic majority. Many of my colleagues did not know how to communicate with the students and their families appropriately due to the cultural difference. Most of the time, we were trying to tell the students and their families what the expectation of the dominant culture was and tried to assimilate them into it because to some extent, it was the key to achieving success in our society. However, teachers suffered from this process a lot. Among all the identities teachers were taking, we had the issue of cultural identity. Despite that we came from the dominant culture, when working with kids from minority communities, we needed to ask ourselves who we were in light of our cultural position, what we did not know about the students, what our assumptions were about teaching based on our experience in the dominant society, and what we really wanted our students to do: become successful by being assimilated into the dominant culture? Or give back to their community by using what they learned from school?
Going back to culturally sustaining pedagogy and ambitious science teaching, I have been thinking about what they mean to teachers in terms of their professional identity. Apart from being a teacher, are there any other identities coming from them, like advocate for local communities?
In the end, I want to congratulate all the pre-service teachers for the successful semester for STARS! You did an awesome job for bringing different science learning experience to your kids! Thank you so much!